Indian paper mills TNPL, Century Pulp and Paper, JK Papers, Trident, ITC, and Ballarpur Industries use ABB automation and digitalization solutions. Currently, the company’s global pulp and paper product group is part of the Industrial Automation division, which is second in the market globally.
“ABB provides automation and quality control systems for electrification, industrial automation, motion, and robotics and discrete automation. We have a good share of the paper market in India, and most of the major mills use ABB solutions,” said Per Sandstrom, manager of Lorentzen and Wettre, ABB.
The Europe-based company displayed its L&W Autoline quality management system at Paperex 2019, in Pragati Maidan. The Autoline is a laboratory system that automates and digitalizes the entire paper quality controls, improves efficiency and optimizes production in a paper and board mill. It provides fast and reliable quality information on up to seven paper machines in a 27×7 operation.
Explaining ABB’s solutions for the paper industry further, Manoj Sukumaran, area sales manager ‒ L&W Products, Process Industries, Industrial Automation Division, ABB, said, “For the paper industry, we have automation products and quality control systems for pulping and papermaking. We have manufacturing units in Faridabad for motors and instrumentation, in Nashik for MV Switchgear and distribution solutions, and in Bengaluru for main works and robotics. Apart from that, we have facilities around the world in different countries, for example, laboratory instruments and R&D, in Ireland.”
From printing paper to packaging paper
Talking about the market in India, Sandstrom said, “From my perspective, there are more paper mills in India than in Europe. The Indian market is very diverse, and there is an amalgamation of big and small paper mills. Whereas in Europe, there is a reduction of smaller mills, hence fewer customers.”
When asked about the situation of paper imports in India, Sandstrom said that he does not see a slowdown in the Indian paper industry. Paper mills are still up and running, and there is always a massive demand for paper. However, it may be true that imported paper could affect the consumption of locally produced paper.
Klara Martens Ekblad, global sales manager for Lorentzen and Wettre products, ABB, added to this point, “What we observed was that there seems to be an increase in the demand for packaging paper. The talk about plastic ban and the rising culture of eCommerce, paper packaging, is now becoming a global trend. India is one such market where the demand for paper packaging is increasing.”
The problem of waste paper recollection in India
Sandstrom added that the paper mills in Europe are shifting to recycled fiber as a substitute for plastic in packaging. “There is a lot of pressure towards adopting sustainable packaging, and fiber is one of the solutions as a renewable and recyclable material. What I would like to see is how that process comes to India because paper plants in Europe are already investing in these solutions. They are quite ahead in this regard. They have a method of recycling every set of fiber multiple times so that there is a limited amount of virgin fiber used,” he said.
Sukumaran argues that the Indian market is already evolving. The demand for paper packaging is increasing, and the smaller mills are shutting down, similar to Europe. The medium-sized mills are upgrading because it makes more economic sense to do that. There is a growing demand for fiber since recycled paper is coming up in a big way. “But the problem in India is that we don’t have a good system to collect waste paper. We are dependent on the municipality to do that, but there is no functional system in place. Once that comes into place, I am sure it will be much better. Right now, we are importing recycled paper while India is such a big market for recycled paper. Collection happens in certain pockets of the country, but it is not an organized sector. So you don’t have a good source of getting waste paper for recycling,” he concluded.
With the paper industry diversifying into producing paper packaging, the demand for ABB’s packaging solution is growing. “Our customers invest a lot of capital in their business; we are not focused on sales but helping our customers optimize their production line and to make the best use of their investments,” Ekblad explained.
“With more and more companies diversifying into packaging, we are planning expansion in our quality control and inspection systems for packaging. That is where we see a business opportunity,” Sandstrom highlighted.